I once remember a parent telling me that tumbling private lessons were just a way for me to “make a quick buck” instead of a valuable tool that would help her child become the super-star tumbler she wanted be.
Never mind the fact that her daughter trained only one hour per week and was expected to have tumbling skills that most gymnasts spend 10-15 hours per week getting.
If you’re reading this as a parent, then I hope you already know the value that one-on-one training can provide.
But just in case you were skeptical, allow me to share a quick fact…
I don’t know of a single high-level tumbler (whether in Cheer or Gymnastics) that didn’t take advantage of private tumbling lessons at some point in their training.
Now look, an athlete can definitely become a good tumbler by being part of a tumbling class. They’ll make steady progress if the coach knows what they’re doing.
But nothing replaces the focused learning which only one-on-one training can provide.
I routinely tell athletes that they can expect to do about a week’s worth of tumbling in a one hour session. This is why it costs you — the parent — a pretty penny.
With that said, private lessons can’t produce miracles either (So if you’re a coach reading this, please don’t market it that way. When astronomical expectations are set, it’ll be impossible for you to meet them. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot.)
Over the years, I’ve seen too many parents throw their money towards private lessons without seeing much of a return on their investment. So today I’m going to cover 3 mistakes you should avoid making, along with some best-practices that you should look for in a good tumbling coach.
Mistake #1: Committing To Only One Lesson
Just as you wouldn’t do one physiotherapy session to recover from an injury, booking only one private tumbling lesson won’t provide the significant improvement you’re looking to see in your child’s tumbling. I’m not saying this is always the case — I’ve coached plenty of private lessons where there was a big leap in progress in just one hour of training.
But it’s not the norm.
Think of each private lesson as a deposit into a bank account which accumulates through compound interest. The more you put in, the faster the rate of progress (typically speaking).
So how many private lessons should you do? I highly suggest a minimum commitment of three, with a frequency of 1 per week (or bi-weekly if the athlete is already spending a significant amount of time in tumbling classes).
Anything less than that, and you might as well spend your money elsewhere (because we all know there’s no “saving” money when you have a child in cheer or gym… am I right?!)
One Small Exception: If an athlete needs a “tune up” after a long lay off, or a fresh perspective because they’ve trained under one coach for a long time, then a single private lesson can be beneficial. As an example: Athletes are usually “rusty” after returning from a Christmas break. So a private lesson is a great way to give them a quick “boost” before getting back into the groove of regular tumbling classes. Or other times I’ll get an athlete that has hit a plateau, and just needed someone different to break them out of it before they returned to their original coach.
Mistake #2: Not Arriving Early
Generally, a private lesson will either last for 30 or 60 minutes. So if you’re paying for a half hour of instruction, the athlete shouldn’t be spending the first 15 on warm up.
Coaches: if you’re wondering how this can possibly work when you have multiple 30 minute sessions booked in a day, then allow me to show you. (Parents, you are about to get a sneak-peek into how I run things.)
Say I have three private lessons booked at the following times:
- 5:00 pm
- 5:30 pm
- 6:00 pm
The athlete at 5pm will be told to come in at 4:45 pm at the latest, and begin a good warm up. If your gym uses my conditioning & progression posters, then this warm up should already up on the wall. The athlete simply needs to come in and follow it to a T.
Because let’s be honest, an athlete doesn’t really need a coach’s supervision to do basic plyometrics, mobility and stretching work.
I know what you’re thinking coaches: “What to do if there is no pre-set or predetermined warm up at my gym?”
Easy, just email the parent a quick warm up a few days in advance and tell them that as soon as their child walks in, they are to find a safe spot somewhere in the gym (where they won’t be a disturbance), and start the warm up.
This process should take about 15 minutes to complete, after which the actual tumbling class can start, and the time can be spent on what truly matters.
As for the athlete who is scheduled for 5:30 pm? They’ll be told to come in at 5:15 pm at the latest, and be informed that I will already be coaching a private lesson with someone else. They are to do their warm up on the side while I finish up so that by the time 5:30 comes around, we are ready to roll.
And you just keep stacking things this way until all your private lessons are complete. If you need a break, then block off an actual break time in your schedule. Don’t use the warm up time of an athlete to relax before the next lesson.
One hour lessons work in a similar fashion. The idea is to overlap athletes in an efficient manner.
A Few Exceptions All Parents Should Know: First, don’t confuse basic or fundamental drills that a coach deems necessary with the warm up. If an athlete is doing a private lesson to master their back handsprings, you better believe some handstand work will be expected of them. This is not a waste of time. Second, if you bring your child right on start time (or late), don’t expect the coach to skip warm up or provide additional time near the end. Warm ups are non-negotiable. Finally, if arriving early is not provided as an option to you, then find out why. If the reason is not legitimate, then don’t forget you can take your business elsewhere. Privates are not cheap, and nor should they be. They demand lot of mental and physical energy from the coach. But I do firmly believe that every penny should go towards the training of the actual skill your child needs help with.
Mistake #3: Not Asking For Homework
And as I’ve written before, reps are the mother of skill. Add to the fact that an athlete can not only experience more reps, but more quality reps (due to the one-on-one attention), and now you have a winning formula.
However, there are certain reps that can be done at home. These include reps of:
- Conditioning exercises
- Body shapes (click here for more details)
- Basic drills
- Journal or Note taking (very effective for mental blocks)
Now obviously, not every coach will assign homework. In that case, it’s a very good idea to ask (especially if you have equipment available such as a trampoline.)
Simply use this word-for-word script…
“Hey thanks so much for working with [NAME] . By the way, we have a trampoline in the back yard and some yoga mats at home. What’s something safe and easy my son/daughter can do at home that will assist him/her with the [SKILL] ?”
Believe me, most coaches will absolutely LOVE you for asking this (if not, there’s a red flag for you).
The simple reason is this: Tumbling coaches love seeing their athletes progress quickly as long as there is no compromise in technique. It just makes us feel damn good. Also, there’s the hidden benefit that when both the parent and the athlete see results, they view private lessons as even more valuable, and are more willing to book them at a constant pace throughout the year.
And why not? Good coaches that provide quality instruction and produce results should be financially rewarded.
Unless of course, you’re completely against freedom and capitalism ??
A Quick Note For Coaches: If you don’t have time to give out specific homework, simply create a few conditioning plans that help strengthen different areas of the body (upper body, core, lower body, explosive jumps etc.) and keep them printed and handy. Then based on the weaknesses of the athlete, you can give them your pre-made conditioning plan that suits their need. As an example, if you have a girl who’s trying to get her back handspring but is lacking shoulder strength, send her off with a simple 15 minute upper body workout plan she can do every day until the next session. This way, you can spend less time conditioning during class (which is about as exciting as watching Chess) and more time spotting the skill or setting up stations (much more interesting and rewarding).
The Golden Rule All Parents Should Remember…
Privates lessons are not like vending machines. In other words, you can’t expect to “pay” for a skill on one end, and have it get spit out the other [Tweet This].
Here’s what you’re REALLY paying for: Competence
This might seem odd at first. After all, if you book a lesson for a back handspring, you expect your child to get a back handspring, right?
Sure, but the sneaky thing about tumbling is that it’s hard to predict. Regardless of how much time and effort your child puts in, it’s near impossible for anyone to predict the exact date they’ll have their skill.
Anyone that tells you otherwise, is full of it.
“Getting” a tumbling skill is a consequence of taking the right actions and doing the right things WHILE training. So the good news is that a focus on competence and skill mastery ultimately results in what you want as a parent anyway — your child getting the skill!
See how that works?
Approaching private lessons with the right mindset and attitude can make all the difference for both the parent and the athlete.
Want Me To Help Improve Your Tumbling?
If you’re enjoying this article, and are interested in scheduling some private lessons with me personally, then I’d love to help you out. Just note that I live near the Toronto area (in Canada). To schedule a lesson, or to find out more details, just click the button below.
What To Do After A Private Lesson is Over
I know the natural thing you want to do is ask you child “how it went.” My suggestion to you, is to avoid any probing or outcome-based questions.
Instead, ask your kid if they gave 100% effort, and whether or not they had fun. (If the answer is “no” to either one, then feel free to ask them why they felt that way.)
Under no circumstances should you make the post training chat completely outcome focused.
Questions To Avoid:
- “Did you do your [SKILL NAME] ?”
- “Did you do your pass?”
- “How close are you to getting your [SKILL NAME] ?”
Realize that I’m not attempting to give parenting advice here.
What am giving however, is skill development advice based who you are to the athlete (a parent). This stuff is researched-backed and produces the right mentality for growth.
When you ask outcome focused questions all the time, here’s what you’re (subtly) saying…
“Hey child, I’m paying for you to get the skill, but could care less about how the experience went for you.”
As you can see, that sends all the wrong messages. For more information on how your role as a parent can actually assist your child in become a better tumbler in a shorter period of time, please read this article: 3 Parental Mistakes Which Are Holding Back Your Child’s Tumbling Progress
Finally, Just Remember That All Of This Is Worthless If…
No progress is being made!
If you truly booked three lessons, then you should be able to spot a noticeable difference (unless you opted for half-hour privates, then expect 3-5).
If there is no progress being made, and the coach can’t come up with an adequate explanation, find a different coach.
This doesn’t necessarily mean the coach is inadequate. In the past I’ve had times where I just couldn’t produce a significant change within 3 classes, even after the parent confirmed homework was being done.
So what did I do?
Simple, I referred them to another coach.
Sometimes, there will be a coach-to-athlete mismatch; the way a coach communicates just can’t be interpreted by the athlete.
And you know what? That’s OK, because 100% compatibility is not possible.
So coaches, don’t take this as an ego hit. Because while some athletes won’t be compatible with the way you do things, others might just look at you as their savior.
Extra Tip To All Coaches: Try different avenues of communication. Audio, visual, demo, spot etc. If you’re having troubles, bring in help to see what they respond to. Sometimes the athlete simply needs to see things LIVE. Other times, they need to be physically taken through the skill, one step at a time, so their brain can experience it. Every athlete has a different style of learning, and it’s up to us to find what works and deliver the message to produce a change.
Let’s Take Your Tumbling Skills To The Next Level!
Do you feel like your tumbling is stuck? Or that you’re not improving at the pace you’re capable of, even though you work your butt off? Then a private lesson may be exactly what you need!
If you live near the Toronto area (in Canada) and want to schedule a lesson, just click the button below for more information and to check my availability. Should you have any questions, you can always email me.
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